{29/11/2012}   Snaffling pens

I have become a pen thief … well, actually I have been one for quite a few years.  I have loads of them and just can’t stop myself pilfering more.  I am referring to freebie/advertising pens, which I get mainly from hotels and offices, I do not take pens from shops or other people!  There is something strangely satisfying about secreting pens about your person to later fill your bag with and it’s unexpectedly thrilling (I don’t get out much, except to pen-snaffling places, clearly!) to try out the new pens, with an additional bonus if there is also a notepad in the offing!

Yesterday I worked at a solicitors’ office, a very nice building with lots of friendly staff and a ready supply of pens and a variant on beloved millionaire’s shortbread (but more on that would be a confession too far!).  I only discovered the pen supply as I was leaving but I’ll be back tomorrow.  It’s advertising, right; I’m doing them a favour.  The immediacy with which I felt my thieving paws lunging for the pen pot yesterday was rather alarming.  It was then, having secured the goods, I contemplated my pen collection.  In the bag I had with me yesterday, I had a pen from Hilton, another from a random company I don’t remember going to and a Barclays pen.

I know someone who has probably hundreds of pens from hotels, often taken by the handful. I am not that bad but I do feel I’ve missed out if I leave a pen-supplying venue pen-less. What is it about pens? I think it’s in part the fact it’s a freebie that’s worth something to you, after all there are few free things these days.  I don’t ever feel smug for having “stolen” from, particularly, a lawyers’ office as the pens are clearly there for the taking, I just find it incredibly satisfying.

In my younger days I collected erasers and bookmarks, all paid for I hasten to add.  Maybe pen snaffling is my adult collecting habit? Mind you, I do not revere them in the same way I did with my eraser and bookmark collections, I merely look at the name on the side every now and then and give myself a little smile, sometimes remembering a good hotel/job/experience, sometimes just appreciative if it’s a particularly good pen.

In addition to the pen thing, I do also have a good line in post-it notes, notepads, pencils and two-biscuit packets of biscuits, which, incidentally, at my current job are exceptionally posh (lime chocolate organic being one pack – v limey, not too much chocolate … mmm, they were good, though looking forward to trying the lemon melts tomorrow!).  Anyway, I say all this as a bit of a confessional, but I just know I am far from being alone on the pilfering front!


{29/11/2012}   A new toilet seat

I am staying in the flat I used to live in in Peckham.  For the past three and a half years I’ve on and off lived here, one of the two toilets has irritated me no end as the toilet seat moves around and a few times I’ve slid off it and ended up partially seated on the cold and often grubby toilet bowl.  Until Sunday, I had never bought a toilet seat before.  My life appears to be enhanced by the presence of a new and colourful toilet seat in that bathroom now.  I have also discovered that there are a lot of different kinds of toilet seats out there.

I never thought I’d get enthusiastic about toilet seats but here I am writing a post about them!  My quest began early last week when I first started saying here and had an early near-incident sliding on the toilet seat.  I tried to mend it, as indeed I have tried on many occasions before, but the fixture was well and truly broken.  Also, the seat itself was a little flimsy and unsatisfying.

I had a look in Sainsbury’s where, to my surprise, there was a toilet seat for sale, but it was white and £18 and this didn’t seem nice.  I realised I didn’t want a white toilet seat.  I looked in a few other supermarkets but they didn’t sell any.  I then went into one of my favourite shops, Kristal’s in Nunhead, a pharmacy that also sells pretty much everything.  I couldn’t see one but I asked and about two minutes later a very bright toilet seat was produced.  I recoiled when I saw it and rejected it, though it was better quality than the flimsy black plastic one that was currently hanging on for dear life.  It was a rather bright blue plastic with an underwater fish scene, lots of brightly coloured fish – £10.95.  Sorry, but I didn’t feel either Chris or I were bright tropical fish toilet seat kind of people.

I then tried online.  Oh my, there are so many different toilet seats.  I realise I don’t like novelty pictures, I didn’t want wood coloured wood, no white, no clear plastic, no water mark effects (I would end up wiping the toilet seat too often, thinking it was covered in dribble), no glitter … the list went on.  I couldn’t even find one I liked amidst all of them.

Then on Sunday, having failed to find a loo seat in a Tesco Extra, I detoured to Argos.  They had a whole page of wooden toilet seats (though not wood as I know it, but never mind) that were in bright colours.  I opted for a turquoisey blue seat, found it available and even discovered it was 25% off (£7.75 – more of a bargain than I expected).  I made my purchase and was surprised by how heavy it was.  I then, uncharacteristically (I am lazy, you see) set to putting it on the toilet as soon as I got home.  It fitted a treat, wasn’t complicated to fit and actually looks good.  I am now contemplating which colour to get for the other bathroom!  I never thought a toilet seat could change a bathroom so much.

I am now in possession of three armchairs and a love seat (a two-seater, but a bit more snug than a conventional two-seater).  Prior to that, in my living room I had a comfy armchair (the kind every visitor gravitated toward), an uncomfy but lovely chaise longue, a black  vinyl chair that was more comfortable than it looked and a massive beanbag.  I feel much less student now I have a living room full of armchairs (the chaise long is now in my bedroom, the black vinyl seat and the beanbag are with Chris in his flat), but, unfortunately, I went for style (my two “new” armchairs and the love seat) in the form of original 1930s chairs, complete with original springs and upholstery.  This equates to questionable comfort, but more of that later.

My point really is to question how many chairs you need in your home.  Fortunately, I have a fairly large living room, though it does not look more like a sitting room in terms of floor space allocation, ie it’s full of armchairs!  The reason I started looking for another armchair was that I had the one comfy chair and I was fed up with one or more people coming over and stealing my lovely comfy chair. Lying in the beanbag was great but once you got it in the right position, it was surprisingly easy to fall asleep in.  This made it a non-sociable seat, plus it was hard to get out of.  The chaise longue is a triumph of loveliness over comfort and took up a lot of space to seat one person.  It also wasn’t know for its comfort.  The vinyl chair was ok, particularly with the benefit of the foot rest, but it was never a curl up kind of chair.  So I decided I needed an additional comfortable chair or sofa.

I looked in charity furniture shops and failed to find anything even slightly inspiring.  I then, dangerously, took to eBay and selected the search tool of being in a certain vicinity of my postcode.  The first armchair I found happened to be two armchairs and a love seat.  They looked so nice and I loved the style.  So, yes, I went to see them and ended up buying them.  They do look lovely and, as they’d been covered probably most of their life, the upholstery isn’t as grubby as I feared.  The issue is just the comfort for only one of them is ok to sit on!  The springs are massive and of trampoline-bounce proportions.  Also, they are like sitting on a water bed.  So you either kind of sloosh around on them or you sit on them a tad too vigorously (they are quite low) and end up being jet propelled back out of them and back to standing.  I’m not exaggerating anywhere near as much as you’d expect.

However, despite my lounge being somewhat overrun by armchairs, I am hoping to have exactly four guests round so we can all sit in our armchairs.  There is something surprisingly grown up about having a proper set of armchairs.  I no longer feel so temporary, having make-do chairs.

The only problem is I fear people will sit on them, bounce to standing and end up sitting on the floor.  I should have chosen my armchairs for their comfort rather than their style.  But, that said, I am very much now the proud owner of some matching furniture, for the first time in my life!  How utterly grown up am I?!

I once knew someone through work whose diary was a bright array of flourescent colours.  Her diary always fascinated me and it was apparent she was highly dependent on it and that it made her life easier than it probably would otherwise have been.  One day I asked her about it.  It transpired that she used different colours for different kinds of chores/appointments.  She said she could look ahead in her diary and see what kind of work she had coming up based on the colours.  I have, to an extent, started adopting the colour code thing and it has made my diary look lovely.  But, as with so many things I blog about, I fear I am revealing myself to be a tad more anal than I like to to think I am.

I never used to keep much if any of an appointments diary (it was all stored in my head – pff, like that would work now!), I rarely wrote to do lists, shopping lists, packing lists and Christmas card lists and all went smoothly.  I now keep an appointments and work diary and I carry around a notepad full of lists.  And sometimes, when I feel the likelihood of forgetting something is great, I even set an alarm on my phone to remind me to do things.  I do generally remember all these things but having them written down makes me feel more confident and secure in my memory recall.

So, yes, I have adopted a multicoloured highlighter pen system.  I dread to think what will happen when (and it will be when not if) I don’t have the right colour to hand or, panic stations, I mark something in the wrong colour.  However, for now I am enjoying highlighting things in my diary.  I’m not going to embarrass myself completely by telling you what colours and for what diary entries but suffice to say, there is logic to it all in my mind.  It has also made the updating of my diary something I actually enjoy doing and it is very satisfying, especially now as I am in possession of a pack of six different coloured highlighter pens with chisel and bullet tips, double-ended no less.

In part, this is perhaps a bit unnecessary and excessive but I’m sure it’s making me organised and it’s changed the way I picture my diary.  So when people as if I’m free on such and such a date, I am beginning to be able to picture my diary and at the very least know if anything is written on that date.  I feel like I am very slowly learning to use my memory again and better recall things.  So, for example, when someone asked me the other day about a weekend in December, I knew I had something written down there so said that I might not be free.  I kept thinking and then I remembered a) there had been something written down for the Friday and b) that I had vigorously crossed it out when I found out it had cancelled and c) what it was that I would otherwise have been busy doing were it not now cancelled.  I was very pleased with myself for that recall.  Maybe I would have remembered anyway but I appreciated the thought process that got me there and I was confident I was correct; indeed I was.

So while I may be mildly embarrassed at the thought of anyone seeing the array of highlighter pen colours all over my diary, I have reason to be smug that it is making me remember things much better than I have done for the past ten or more years!

Last night we had roast lamb, potatoes, parsnips and carrots with a Cava aperitif and cheesecake with caramelised pineapple for dessert.  We ate far too much but it made for a lovely dinner and evening.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a Sunday roast and I am now reminded that it’s worth taking the time to do it for as many Sundays as possible.

I don’t know if we had a Sunday roast every Sunday at home when I was a child but we certainly had a lot of roast dinners.  I love them. I don’t like pork so for me it’s either roast chicken, lamb or beef.  In an ideal world there will be Yorkshire Pudding and I think it’s ludicrous to only have Yorkshire Pudding with beef; Yorkshire Pudding is lovely with everything.  There is definitely a sense of tradition and comfort with a roast dinner but it also tastes great.

Yesterday, my friend and I contemplated getting a Sunday lunch at a pub but we both had plans for dinner so abandoned a substantial lunch, indeed in my case it would have meant a Sunday lunch and a Sunday dinner.  You can have too much of a good thing.  Again, there is something traditional, proper, about having Sunday lunch in a pub.  I feel like so many of us think that an ideal Sunday would be lounging around with the newspapers then going out for a Sunday roast.  I increasingly feel we are brainwashed into associating certain things with certain days of the weeks or whatever.  However, roast dinners really are all about Sundays.  Traditionally, it was the meal that was eaten as a family if no other meal were eaten together.  I like to think it often still is.  I know a fair few people who have a family roast dinner on a Sunday.

I even know someone who has strange eating issues, whereby he eats the same very specific ready meal from the same shop every day of the week for his dinner, while his wife and children eat “normal”, varied meals.  However, on a Sunday, he will eat a freshly prepared, non-ready meal roast dinner.  However, the roast dinner has to be exactly the same every week!  I guess it’s a recognition that Sunday roasts are both a nice tradition and a way of spending a meal with your family.

Some people suggest that roast dinners are a lot of work, but once you’ve prepared everything, most of it is just shoved in the oven and left.  The only down sides are that there is usually a fair bit of messy washing up and that, to me at least, it is a source of great distress to mess up the roast potatoes, for if they aren’t crispy or are burnt it is very upsetting.  Last night, however, I got them crispy on the outside and soft in the middle!  Likewise the parsnips.  Hurrah.

I think really that a Sunday roast reminds me of childhood, of meal times spent with my parents, and nowadays as time to sit with friends or family and enjoy a meal that I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys.  It’s also nice to have a British tradition because I feel there are so few.  So really, what’s not to love about having a Sunday roast, especially if it involves friends and loved ones and simple yet delicious food?

{25/11/2012}   Preparing for Christmas

It will be Christmas Day in exactly one month.  How did that happen?  I like to plan things in advance and hate having last minute things to do, but I do feel vaguely prepared.  But, really, why does there even need to be preparation other than presents and cards?  Somehow, there just does need to be preparation.

For example, decorations.  I love Christmassy things (in December, not October or November) and love decorating my home with a tree, fairy lights and other bits and pieces.  This year, however, I have a weekend earmarked for that.  Usually it ends up being a bit approximate and rushed.  For quite some years, a friend of mine who loves and is very good at wrapping used to come over.  I would bake mince pies and decorate and she would wrap all my presents (except her own of course, I’m not that incompetent!).  We would listen to Christmas music and it was always so much fun.  Sadly, for the past few years we haven’t been free at the same time so haven’t done it.  If I shake a leg, we might actually manage to sort a date to resurrect this Christmas tradition.

So that could possibly cover a task I hate, wrapping.  Then there is the Christmas season food.  I see it as an excuse to stockpile favourite foods, mainly cheese.  I have also been well and truly influenced by Christmas marketing so always buy nuts (they usually end up more as dusty “decorations” but, hey, Christmas is all about nuts and dried fruit too … right?!) and chocolates and Baileys and – well, all the things the shops thrust in your face as you enter a shop.  I am gullible and foolish on this score.  But it’s all part of the Christmas excess and I love it.  I also seem to always have a fridge full of meat and vegetables as if shops will be closed for a week.  They aren’t and it just makes me eat even more.  Dreadful really and this year I should economise and not gorge myself.

So really, that should be it.  But somehow it never is.  For a one-day celebration, I end up spending hours and hours thinking and planning.  And my Christmas Day this year will be my mum and I; it’s not like we have a huge family.  But then there are the pre-Christmas meet-ups with friends, a season of parties/drinks out/meals out and catching up with people you’ve shamefully barely been in touch with since the previous pre-Christmas rush.  But really that’s nice, even though it’s sad, because at least there is a time of year that we make an extra effort to see friends and family.  For so many people, that’s the best thing about Christmas, seeing and spending time with your loved ones.  And eating loads.  And having a house full of fairy lights and what would usually be dismissed as tat!

So, while over the coming month I may moan I have no money/time and I have too much to do/eat/drink, really I will love it and it will make me feel Christmassy and homey and there will be schmaltz and Polar Express on TV and I will sink into my favourite chair covered in a rug, cat on lap, Baileys to hand, cheese aplenty, mince pies and brandy butter to be warmed at a moment’s notice, TV on, foot rest in use … ah, yes, I have well and truly been brainwashed by Christmas marketing.  But I don’t care, I love Christmas and this whole month coming.

{24/11/2012}   Deliveries

Much as I appreciate certain things about internet shopping, awaiting deliveries is guaranteed to make me wish I’d gone to a proper shop and just bought it and carried it home myself.  Yesterday, I waited in for something.  It arrived in the morning and all was fine, but that has not always been my experience.

I don’t live in a block that has a porter, I don’t work in an office where I can get things delivered to and I am not usually at home during weekdays, and often not on Saturdays either.  I don’t mind Royal Mail deliveries being missed as it’s easy to walk to the sorting office and collect something, especially as they have evening and weekend opening times.  However, in the past I’ve ventured to corners of London I’d never been to, usually industrial estates in areas lacking outstanding natural beauty.

I once had a delivery to my house in Whitstable (annoyingly, I missed it – not knowing it was going to arrive that day – by about 30 minutes) and was given re-delivery options that I couldn’t agree to unless I took a day off work (yeah, right, especially as I’m self employed and can’t do my job from home).  So I had to drive to an industrial estate in Ashford, for which I wasted time and petrol.

I, probably like anyone who’s ever ordered something to be delivered, have also waited in all day for something which hasn’t arrived.  You then have to resort to phoning and being subjected to automated messages which never off the choices you have in mind.  It’s enough to send you back to the High Street!

A friend once ordered a bed online.  It arrived on the designated day, fine, but arranging a day took a while and he had to wait a long time.  Then when it arrived it transpired that it was two halves of two different beds, part wood, part painted so not interchangeable.  He then waited another few weeks – weeks – to get the correct half to the bed.  He was calmer about it than I would have been.

What is it about deliveries that makes you want to go out more than you otherwise would?  As soon as I know I am tied to the house, I want to go out.  When I first arrived in Japan, the company I was about to work for offered us a luggage delivery service whereby our heavy stuff would be delivered the next day as we had to go from the airport to an office and on to our new home.  The bags were due to arrive any time from 8am.  My new flatmate arrived the day before and both of us were up early in the morning so decided to go for a pre-8am walk.  It was great, we had an early morning wander, got a few bits of food in, had a coffee and got home pretty much bang on 8am.  We then waited in all day for our bags, which didn’t arrive.  We phoned the office and it transpired the delivery was attempted at 8am.  They must have been slightly early.  Very, very annoying.  It arrived the next morning at around 8am!

I don’t know why I felt a need to complain because my delivery arrived in the first minute of the time slot I was given, I happened to be at home and all was in order.  But all the horrors and stresses of awaiting deliveries came back to me.  How I miss living in a block that had a porter.

{22/11/2012}   Hats with ears

Last night, I saw a grown woman wearing a furry hat that extended into a furry scarf in the style of a grey furry cat.  I’m sorry but it looked ridiculous and weird.  I don’t get it.  It’s one thing dressing babies and young children to look like cute animals but, really, grown ups?

Maybe I am just lacking in a sense of humour on this matter but it’s both mutton dressed as lamb and human dressed as animal.  It wasn’t even fancy dress, she was otherwise seemingly normal, though the latter is a dull thing to be and maybe I too should address being out of the ordinary and dress in a furry cat head piece …. er, no.  On this I am happy to be normal!

Occasionally, I also see people with motorbike helmets with ears on top.  Why?  I’m all for creativity but for some reason animal outfits annoy me.

If a friend of mine rocked up dressed as a cat/dog/giraffe I would struggle to converse with them and would, strangely, find it weird talking to them – talking just about wearing an eared “hat”.  I don’t care about fancy dress animal outfits though, they don’t distress me; fancy dress is fancy dress.  I mean, I don’t like the concept of fancy dress but that’s different.

Actually, I remember now in Japan that Hello Kitty figures dressed in animal suits were popular (ie toys) and they annoyed me too.  Yikes, do I have some strange animal costume phobia?  Now there’s another angle to it.  I was after all unexpectedly angry seeing that girl in her grey furry cat outfit.  I even, dare I say it, had an urge to pull it off.  Is that a bit extreme?!  Seriously though, she looked ridiculous.

I am saying all this and I have a niggle that I know someone who wears a teddy bear hat.  Anyway, I was in mid rant flow.  Delving deeper into the psychology of this I also have an issue with food flavoured to taste like other food.  For example, a cranberry soaked raisin.  Why not eat a cranberry or a raisin.  What point is there trying to make a raisin taste like a cranberry.  It’s an issue with something pretending to be something it isn’t … perhaps?  Or maybe it’s just a simple matter whereby I don’t like top-of-head ears on humans.  I am writing myself into weirdness I now fear!

Oh, oh, another one.  While I said I was ok with fancy dress, I am not ok with leaflet giver-outers, for example, dressed as animals, particularly when you can’t see their faces.  Ugh, I will walk to the farthest reaches of a pavement or road to get away from them.  I hate not knowing what’s underneath.  Oh, I’m very much disturbed.  I can picture a big lumbering chicken outfit with some poor person inside handing out leaflets.  Oh that was horrible.  Now, see, this blog is therapy, I am discovering my idiosyncrasies and addressing them.  Sort of.  Well actually not because there is no way I will every look at someone wearing an eared animal hat and think, “Ahhh, that’s so cute”.


{22/11/2012}   Body temperature

I have hyperhidrosis, which basically means I overheat and sweat more than most people.  I have a few friends with Raynaud’s, pretty much the opposite syndrome.  I am currently struggling with the temperature outside versus the temperature on public transport.  Every day this week, I have spent the morning in a sweaty mess.  Looking around, I do not see others sweating.  I have also been in an office that is either icy cold or hot, the latter which seems to suit everyone else, the former which I can just about tolerate and which is better than the hot option.  I don’t know how people cope in offices or sharing a house with people whose body temperatures are so different.

I have the heating on quite low at home, but a few friends in particular come round and end up looking really cold.  A conversation may then ensue about our differing body temperatures and each other’s hands will be felt and their varying temperatures exclaimed over.  If I then turn the heating up, I overheat and feel sorry for myself.  It’s really hard and really frustrating to find a temperature that suits everyone.  One friend who does have Raynaud’s always comes round with a bag full of warm things.  She brings extra jumpers, indoor Ugg boots and thick socks.  I go round to hers wearing layers, ending with a thin t-shirt.

As for the trains, for example, why do they have to have heating puffing away.  Everyone is dressed in wintery attire anyway and sardine-packed bodies make for a hot and steamy carriage (oo er!)  so the addition of heating confounds me and renders me uncomfortably hot and sweaty.  It’s a vicious circle because when I then take off my jacket or another layer, by the time I get outside and it’s a bit cooler, my sweat gets cold and I am that horrible mix of cold on the outside, hot on the inside.

I fear there are a lot of people who don’t get all this and think I am exaggerating but it really isn’t remotely pleasant to spend most time in buildings and on public transport wiping away the sweat and feeling ludicrously hot.

How on earth do people survive in offices.  I have attended disciplinaries over issues relating to temperature issues (eg a workplace harassment claim based on someone turning the heating down and making them cold – it was more complicated than that but it got very out of hand).  Of course I hate working in icy cold environments (don’t start me off on air conditioning!) but it feels like a lot of shops, offices and public transport blast out the heating.  I hate walking into a shop from outside, where you’re dressed suitably for the temperature, and are subjected to temperatures far greater than you’d ever have at home.  I’m not surprised everyone has seemingly had or has a cold – hot germy air seems to be the accepted standard.

I suppose really I should just be grateful I don’t live somewhere like Russia where apartment blocks have a centralised heating system that is on super hot from X date to Y date irrespective of the temperature outside.  I stayed in such a place in Lithuania in April and we couldn’t open the windows.  I could have cried, it was like being captive in a tropical plant house.  Now to see how long I can get away with having my breakfast with the door open to the lovely cool outside air …

Whenever I talk about the joys of living in London, I usually cite buying last minute theatre tickets as being a huge plus to living in London, that you can finish work and say, “Oh, I know, let’s go to Leicester Square and get half price tickets for a show tonight”.  Yeah, right, like I’ve ever done that!  I’m staying in London this week and last night I did just that after work.  My friend joined me and we got row seven tickets to see Uncle Vanya, the latest adaptation of Chekhov’s play, first published in 1897, starring Ken Stott, Anna Friel, Samuel West and Laura Carmichael.

I have always said that I enjoy theatre more after the event than during as I find it horrendously uncomfortable and a touch boring.  The latter I blame on film culture whereby there are effects and more emphasis on the changing scenes.  Last night, however, I was engaged throughout and only looked at my watch once.  I really enjoyed it and appreciated that we had good seats, in the middle, seven rows from the stage.

I know the first two actors but only vaguely Samuel West and I had never heard of Laura Carmichael.  Though I hasten to add that I did not want to see this play because of the cast.  Ken Stott was as brilliant as you’d hope and draws you into his character and not for a minute do you doubt he is Uncle Vanya.  I thought Anna Friel was pretty good, not exceptional but convincing.  I thought Samuel West was really good and delivered his lines naturally, like Ken Stott.  I found out Laura Carmichael played Lady Edith in Downton Abbey, which I have never seen.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t keen on her performance.  It was technically good, but I don’t like how she projected her voice, it was too stagey, not natural.  The supporting cast were also good, though for similar reasons to Laura Carmichael I didn’t enjoy the performance of the stand-in who played Nanny.  She was a great character, with some fun lines, but she merely delivered her lines and was more sit-com than stage.

As for the play itself, it’s Chekhov so it’s about people and is also about Russian life in the countryside.  Nothing in particular happens, it’s just a slice of life, but I loved the flawed characters and their complaining and misery and the fact it was witty.  The two male leads were brilliant, though aided by a fantastic script.  Anna Friel was also well cast as the unhappy beauty who messes with the hearts and minds of the main men in the film.  I read that Cate Blanchett had been in a production of Uncle Vanya playing the Anna Friel role, Yelena.  I would have loved to have seen her in that role.  Though I reiterate that Anna Friel was good.

The set deserves a paragraph of its own because it was amazing.  It was the interior and exterior of a large wooden house and was very atmospheric and beautifully crafted.

Overall, I hope that another day I will think to get last minute tickets because it was a really lovely evening and a great way to spend an evening.  I don’t like having things booked, particularly as my work finish times are so unpredictable, and this is a perfect way for me to see a play and have an enjoyable evening out.

et cetera